Montes-Lopez v. Holder

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Immigration
  • Date Filed: 09-18-2012
  • Case #: 08-70229
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: District Judge Collins for the Court; Circuit Judges Clifton and Murguia
  • Full Text Opinion

An alien denied his statutory right to counsel during an immigration proceeding does not need to show "he was prejudiced by the absence of the attorney."

Mario Montes-Lopez, a citizen of El Salvador, was denied asylum before an Immigration Judge. Montes-Lopez appeared before the Immigration Judge without his attorney seeking a continuance after his attorney had notified him that his license to practice law had been suspended. The Immigration Judge questioned Montes-Lopez and determined that Montes-Lopez might have learned about his attorney’s status up to eleven days earlier. The Immigration Judge proceeded with the hearing and denied Montes-Lopez’s application for asylum after determining “that Petitioner was not diligent in bringing his attorney’s suspension to the attention of the court.” Montes-Lopez appealed, asserting that his right to counsel was violated. The Ninth Circuit determined that Montes-Lopez’s right to counsel was violated and that “even if Petitioner should have notified the immigration court of Mr. Pena’s letter sooner, this misstep does not justify a forfeiture of this right to counsel.” Further, the Ninth Circuit found that “an alien who shows that he has been denied the statutory right to be represented by counsel in an immigration proceeding need not also show that he was prejudiced by the absence of the attorney.” Petition GRANTED.

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